Please be warned, despite the title, this post might not be quite so happy.
Did you know that all it takes is a mere 20+ hours of traveling, delays, waiting, and a night spent near JFK airport to earn an upgrade to business class? If you’re lucky, you might even be switched from an airline that doesn’t support WiFi on many flights (such as Continental), to one that does (such as Delta). So here I am, sitting in my comfy seat with a blanket, my feet propped up, a lovely, aerial view of American farmland, rivers, and highways to my left, my laptop neatly placed in front of me, and all the frustrations of the previous day nearly forgotten.
The past 10 days have included moments of frustration, joy, exhaustion, sadness, and relief. It began with a red-eye flight from SFO < EWR, a morning spent in a dated airport hotel, and a reunion with my 80 year-old, Northern Irish grandmother outside customs in Terminal C. The purpose of our meeting in this way, was to accompany each other upwards to Nova Scotia to visit my great aunt and her sister. Aunt Sally lives in a nursing home and suffers from Alzheimers and the loneliness that comes with long-departed relatives and friends, as well as the long distance from her native home. For my grandmother, who we can refer to as "Granny," this was a necessary and much longed-for trip. She feared that if she did not go when she did, that her sister may no longer recognize her or that she (Granny) may not be fit to handle the cross-Atlantic flight. For me, it was an opportunity to meet my great aunt for the second time and to spend time with Granny when she most needed it. In a few days, once I've had the chance to upload all my photos, I'll chronicle our adventure in fuller detail. For now, I just need a place to enter some of the many thoughts and emotions that came with it all. Nova Scotia was hardly the place I remembered it being from the sole journey I had made about 15 years earlier. Instead of finding hearty seafood meals and charming mom and pop shops, we drove through run-down towns and ate microwaved "baked" potatoes. Granny remarked on the absence of shops she remembered and the bizarre drop in population. However, the landscape, with its many rivers, hilltops, and inlets, remained unchanged. We spent our days between our country road motel, neighboring towns, and Aunt Sally's nursing home, Grace Haven. On our first visit, Aunt Sally instantly recognized Granny but had trouble making conversation and resorted to frequently discussing the blue sky and nice green grass. Each day she returned more and more to her old self - making jokes, laughing, informing us of where old friends once had lived, and commenting on how it was high strawberry season. Her mobility levels appeared to coincide with her mental capacity for remembrance and recognition. The more she chatted, the less she complained of her sore legs. Granny's mood also fluctuated with Aunt Sally's behavior, as to be expected. Watching the two sisters reconnect as Granny told her sister stories of when they were children and as Aunt Sally poked fun at Granny for spilling ice cream down her top, was incredibly moving. Realizing that Aunt Sally had slipped back into confusion when she asked when we would take her home, was heartbreaking. As a mostly silent onlooker, I wanted to be able to take this woman I barely knew, yet with whom I share so much, into my arms and tell her that someday we would come to take her home for good. I am still unsure whether Aunt Sally truly understood who I was. She knew me as someone she could trust, but whether she saw me as a relative I suppose I'll never know. The important thing was that she always knew and smiled at her sister. I imagine she's forgotten by now that we were ever over to spend time with her, but I'd like to think that she feels a bit happier and doesn't feel quite so alone. It is easy to adopt a sense of relaxation when promptly prepared meals and endless servings of tea are brought to my small table, 10,000 feet above the ground. Today's situation sharply contrasts with yesterday's feeling of being stranded at the Halifax airport, and then at JFK, the abrupt goodbye shared between Granny and myself, and the sadness of knowing that neither of us will probably ever see Aunt Sally again. Only 2 1/2 hours to go until I reach San Francisco. I just need to be home.